The analytical marketer’s conundrum: go big or just…go?

July 20, 2017 | By

One of my favorite quotes is from tennis great Arthur Ashe:

Start where you are.

Use what you have.

Do what you can.

The list is long in the number of ways I find this to be terrific advice, both professionally and personally. But lately it’s felt especially relevant in the context of marketing and customer data platforms in particular.

I’ve long argued that a 360º degree view of the customer is falsely construed as a destination – a thing that you’ll end up with if you buy the right technology, hire the right people, spend the right amount of money, etc. In fact, compiling centralized repositories for customer data is a project and one that should be tweaked, reviewed, and optimized systematically by marketers. But I have also come to realize that there are further false dichotomies and empty promises embedded in this whole conversation. For example (and these all come from actual marketers and analytics professionals talking about the challenges they face):

  1. We have to centralize all the possible customer data in one place before we can create plans for how to use it.
  2. If we can’t integrate it all, then we can’t start.
  3. Building out the full stack and database we want is a multi-year project plan so we’re going to hold off on making changes to what we’re doing in the meantime.
  4. Finding people to hire is difficult; there aren’t very many and the ones that we can find are expensive so we have to re-allocate resources
  5. My plate is over-full already; adding something else is just too much to handle.

All of these objections held a lot more water in life before the customer data platform. Because, as Mr. Ashe would say: start where you are, use what you have, do what you can. To respond to the above challenges:

  1. Centralize all customer data before even planning to make use of it
    You’re far better off listing your goals (“What am I specifically trying to accomplish?”) and identifying what data you need than the other way around. Why go to the grocery store to buy everything you might need when you could make a list based on specific recipes and be focused on your trip? You save time, money, and space that way. You can always go back to the grocery store, buy more things, find them faster, and get more sophisticated.
  2. If everything isn’t integrated, we can’t start
    If you were given the choice between making consistent 5% improvements starting today, or waiting an indeterminate amount of time in hopes of a 50% improvement at some point…which would you pick?
  3. We’re involved in a martech overhaul / customer database project and don’t want to make changes until we’re 100% ready to go
    Same point as #2: you can see results now; why trade that for a finish line that doesn’t exist and will always be moving further back?
  4. Finding people to hire is difficult, and resources are expensive
    You can better employ the resources you have by using tools that are made for marketers. Tools that allow you to get incredible amounts of work done more efficiently.
  5. My plate is over-full already; adding something else is just too much to handle.
    Charles Duhigg’s book, Smarter, Faster, Better is one of my favorites. Check it out. Note that adopting one new thing that lets you do everything else smarter, better, faster is a very worthwhile trade. If you are under water, having better buckets to bail you out may help.

Over the next few weeks and months, we’re going to be doubling down on this Ashe-ism because we feel so strongly that if everyone used a CDP, they’d be better marketers on virtually every measure. Watch this space for more and sign up for our updates below if you want to be notified when there’s a new post.

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